Preston Foster and Forrest Tucker play feuding ranchers in drought-stricken Depression-era Utah in THE BIG CAT (1949).
Years ago Gil (Tucker) had prevented Tom (Foster) from marrying his sister Lucy. There's great bitterness left from that time, but the men strive to peacefully co-exist in order to survive the drought. Tom is hoping to earn a government bounty if he's successful hunting a "big cat" which has come out of the hills in search of food and water, stealing the local farmers' stock. While Tom is on the hunt, Gil and his sons (Skip Homeier and Gene Reynolds) fell timber on Tom's property.
The arrival in the area of Danny (Lon McCallister), son of the recently deceased Lucy, reopens old wounds, culminating in an intense brawl between Tom and Gil. Meanwhile the big cat is still on the loose...
W. Howard Greene.) For the most part the script is a bit dull, and there's also some unexpected tragedy which was disappointing, but the film has the plus of being only 75 minutes long.
Another positive is that Foster has some particularly nice moments reacting to emotional news, and the previously mentioned brawl is really something else.
The eight-person cast also features Irving Bacon in a fine role as Matt, a farmer who also serves as both mailman and preacher. The scene where Matt presides over the three households having "Sunday meeting" is a gem. There might not be a church, but they still dress up and come together to worship, however briefly.
Sara Haden (Aunt Milly of the Andy Hardy series) is sympathetic as Matt's wife. Their daughter, who is thrilled to have a more refined young man living in the area than Gil's loutish sons, is played by Peggy Ann Garner (A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN).
The movie was directed by Phil Karlson, who later directed great crime films such as 99 RIVER STREET (1953) and THE BROTHERS RICO (1957).
I watched THE BIG CAT on a DVD from Alpha, a public domain company. The print was watchable, but only just; the print was quite soft and the soundtrack could have been a bit more clear. I rented it from ClassicFlix.
THE BIG CAT isn't a great film, but there are enough worthwhile moments in it that fans of the cast or director may find it worth taking a look.